Can You Grow Food in Arizona? 12 Fresh Picks

Most of us believe that we can’t grow crops in Arizona. But is it so? Can you grow food in Arizona? The answer lies in this content.

Arizona is a large region in the southwest region of the country. Of the 50 states, it is the 14th largest populated and 6th largest.

Phoenix is the nation’s capital and largest city. Arizona is surrounded by the states of Nevada to the northwestern, California to the west, as well as the Mexican nations of Sonora & California to the southwest and south. It also shares the Four Corners region alongside Utah to the north, Colorado to the north, & New Mexico to the east.

Arizona became a state on February 14, 1912, making it the 48th and final state of the 48 to join the Union. It was formerly a part of the Alta California region of New Spain, but in 1821 it became a part of independent Mexico.

Every industry has its origins in agriculture, from seed finance to sustained expansion. It is impossible to understate the value of agriculture and the contributions it makes to both the residents and the state of Arizona.

138,000 employments were created by the $23.3 billion agriculture business, which is anticipated to be. Cattle, citrus, and cotton are three of Arizona’s “5 C’s,” and agriculture provides livelihoods for countless numbers of Arizonans as well as food for millions more.

1. History of Arizona’s Agriculture

Early 19th-century explorers who passed through the state discovered inhabitants rearing livestock and farming grain, wheat, and barley. Additionally, one of the most incredible irrigation systems, of which is still in service. The canals were constructed by the Hohokam people to transport water from the Salt and Gila Rivers to agricultural fields.

The canals were designed so that the water would flow through them at the proper speed to keep them flowing without becoming clogged with silt and debris.

Since then, farmers have discovered that Arizona’s diverse weather and soil support hundreds of food crops, gorgeous landscaping plants, and raised garden systems as well as chickens, pigs, and cattle producing dairy and meat. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, wheat, hay, cotton, egg, meat, and milk are exported by Arizona agriculture to 70 different nations as well as to other states in the country.

Agriculture currently contributes over $23.3 billion to Arizona’s economy. According to one survey, agriculture supports over 138,000 jobs, with 162,000 people working in the industry.

2. Can You Grow Food in Arizona- When to Grow Vegetables in Arizona

Given the number of times days of the year the sun shines, many people relocate to Arizona to take advantage of the mild climate.

However, without some assistance from professionals, it’s not so simple to grow vegetables as in the Southern Arizona desert.

Image by Sven Hilker from Pixabay/ May 2018

While certain veggies can grow and provide food in cold and even freezing temperatures, others require considerably warmer environments. When something comes to growing in Arizona, vegetables are divided into two groups: cool-season crops and hot-season crops.

a. Cool Season Crops

These plants can withstand freezing and are hardy. They are simple to plant in the early spring, winter, or fall. It is advised that they be given time to develop during cooler times instead of during the sweltering summer months for optimum outcomes.

Beet, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, lettuce, onion, pea, potato, radish, spinach, and turnip are a few examples of cool-season plantings.

b. Hot Season Crops

Beans, cucumber, eggplant, melons, pepper, pumpkin, squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes are all warm-season crops. These veggies require hot weather to set and fully mature fruit because they cannot survive frost.

High temperatures, however, deteriorate quality and result in floral abortion. From virtually sea level to over 7,000 feet above sea level, gardening is practised throughout Arizona.

Experts concur that the scorching summers at the lower elevations and the frigid winters at the highest altitude are the two main issues in the Arizona desert.

Two main planting times are advised at lower altitudes up to 3,000 feet: springtime for warm-season veggies and early fall to winter for chilly vegetables.

There is only one primary farming season at higher elevations around 3,000 and 6,000 feet, hence it is advised to plant in the spring and early summer months. However, it should be noted that planting cool-season vegetables in the early fall is typically successful at these altitudes in Central & Southern Arizona.

3. Growing Vegetables in Arizona- 12 Amazing Vegetables

The climate in Arizona allows for the year-round growth of a huge variety of crops. Arizonan farmers also cultivate a variety of speciality crops in addition to common ones like cotton, alfalfa, and wheat. Thousands of different types, from nurseries to daily fresh veggies, are included in the speciality crop business.

Foods grown in Arizona’s fertile soil include greens, cabbage, dates, melon, lemons, oranges, apples, potatoes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. The business for date and nut crops is expanding in the state as well.

The Grand Canyon State has few pistachio trees, but the pecan industry is expanding swiftly. The state is home to the largest date farm in the world and the largest pecan plantation in the nation.

3.1) Bell Peppers 

On bell peppers, sunscald appears as white, grey, or dull yellow patches that gradually decay and become soft. Pick the first two or three blooms when the plant is young to focus the plant’s energy on growing leaves, which will prevent sunscald on your peppers.

Image by hartono subagio from Pixabay/ Oct 2021

The bell peppers below should not have a lot of scald once a plant has additional leaves. Another smart move is to grow your pepper plants near enough to one another so their fruits will shadow one another.

3.2) Chili Peppers 

The chilli pepper is a great plant to grow in an Arizona garden. They are necessary for southwest cooking since they enjoy the heat and can tolerate the arid weather. Chilli plants can withstand bright sunlight and are grown in a manner quite similar to that of bell peppers.

Once more, the harsh Arizona heat can induce sunscald on peppers.

3.3) Tomatoes 

Tomatoes grown in gardens thrive in the sun and therefore can withstand the heat! The heat poses very few challenges for tomatoes. When fruit is exposed to sunlight all day, sunscald can occur.

Make certain that your plants are strong enough to develop a complete leaf canopy. If you do, repeated exposure shouldn’t be a significant issue very often. When you notice sunburned tomatoes, remove them immediately since they cannot heal, and keep them in tomato cages.

After that, they will begin to decompose in the burned area, making a mess and perhaps spreading illness.

3.4) Eggplant

Eggplants are simple to grow, adore the heat, and thrive in bright conditions. These eggplants can be sensitive to sunscald, just like bell peppers. The best cure is to wait until the plants are completely covered in leaves before letting any eggplants mature.

Image by Eric Michelat from Pixabay/ August 2017

Although white eggplant is just not frequently found in supermarkets, it is a fantastic plant to grow in the Arizona sun. At the height of harvest, the white fruits gleam pearlescent and are less bitter than the large-fruited purple eggplant.

Sunscald can still affect white eggplant cultivars, and you can detect the spots as yellow markings on the fruits.

3.5) Corn

Arizona can support corn growth, however, corn is a significant water user. The drought-stricken state should be concerned about this. Native Arizonans have been growing corn in Arizona for millennia, and it is still a common crop among native people today.

The majority of native corn varieties are extremely drought tolerant and have evolved to grow in the desert environment in sandy soil with little to no additional irrigation.

Plan to have a plot that is at least 10 square feet by 10 feet for planting corn. Wind pollinates corn. Any less area (or a strung-out 1′ x 100′ row) will result in incomplete pollination of the corn and underdeveloped ears. Animals, crows, and ravens are common creatures, so sow extra maize for them.

3.6) Green Beans

Green beans do just as well in the Arizona sunlight as dry beans do, though they often require a little more water to create a good-quality green bean.

Select cultivars whose descriptions indicate that they thrive in the heat. Green beans typically do not experience sunscald. As the plants have very similar development tendencies, it is important to put your green beans in a separate area of your vegetable garden from your dry beans so you can distinguish between them while harvesting for fresh eating.

The capacity of members of the bean family to fix nitrogen makes growing dry and green beans a significant benefit. Nitrogen is necessary for plant growth and is plentiful in our air but not in large quantities in garden soil.

3.7) Okra

Okra is a favourite crop for gardeners in the Southeastern United States, but Southwesterners should love it just as much! Okra undoubtedly does well in the heat, faces little insect and disease threats, and faces little to no issues with the harsh Arizona sun.

Image by Rinki Lohia from Pixabay/ June 2020

Okra that has just been picked is a game-changer and might persuade any critics to appreciate its delicate, well-balanced floral/vegetable flavour and distinctive texture.

The yellow hibiscus-like blossoms are stunning enough to plant and enjoy ornamentally even if you don’t like okra! Okra plants are regal and gorgeous, and the maturing seed pods are fascinating to see. The majority of okra cultivars have green pods, but some have deep burgundy pods, which may add distinctive character to any vegetable garden.

3.8) Potatoes

Since they develop underground and are never sunburned, potatoes are a great crop to raise in Arizona’s hot climate. A good crop of many potato cultivars can be grown in dry areas, but they will almost certainly require additional irrigation.

Because potatoes like cooler soil temperatures, it is a good idea to cover the plants with leaves or straw to help keep the soil moist and reduce soil temperatures. So, it is advisable to plant potatoes in Arizona’s vegetable garden.

From the seed potato, potatoes grow upward, and if we continually mound it with soil or mulching as they grow, you’ll give them more room to mature.

3.9) Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are indeed a high-temperature crop that is simple to grow and aesthetically pleasing due to their lush canopy of brilliant green leaves. Even for the exotic plant market, sweet potato vines have been grown!

Since sweet potatoes are inherently heat-lovers and are descended from wild plants found in the tropics, they thrive in sunny climates or from direct sunlight. An added benefit would be that sweet potato leaves can be consumed, serving as a tasty alternative to spinach in hot climates.

3.10) Zucchini 

An Arizona gardener’s best friend is zucchini. Growing zucchini is fairly simple, and it can withstand the intense heat of the Arizona sun. In addition, it does well in the heat. The fruit is often sufficiently covered by enormous leaves such that sunburn rarely occurs. Simply take off the affected fruit if it has to sunscald and leaves a tender spot; the plant will quickly produce a replacement.

Edson Rosas/ Unsplash

Regardless of whether the plant is properly watered, zucchini leaves may begin to wilt throughout the day in the summer heat. As the plants naturally decrease leaf turgor during times of extreme heat, you shouldn’t be alarmed if you notice a leaf wilt.

3.11) Pumpkins 

If you have enough room for their sprawling vines and massive leaf canopy, pumpkins are a delightful crop to grow in your Arizona vegetable gardens during the growing season. Pumpkins thrive in the Arizona climate because of their large leaves. Pumpkins rarely suffer from sunscald because of their hard skin and pale colour.

Can You Grow Food in Arizona
Marius Ciocirlan/ Unsplash

The sun’s intensity decreases as fall approaches and the pumpkin’s leaves begin to die back because the sun is below the horizon. The sun aids in the pumpkins’ ultimate ripening. How lovely it is to observe the September Arizona dusk on a pumpkin patch’s maturing orange globes.

3.12) Carrots 

Carrots are a fantastic crop to grow in Arizona’s hot, sunny climate since they don’t burn easily. As long as they receive enough water to prevent the roots from becoming soft, carrots can withstand the heat. Carrots require very little extra care about direct sunlight if they are planted in healthy soil and receive enough water.

Image by katerinavulcova from Pixabay/ August 2018

Getting carrot seeds to sprout is the most challenging aspect of cultivating them in the heat. Extra care must be taken because the seeds and soil in Arizona’s arid climate must remain moist until germination. Cover the area with a wet old bedsheet, a row blanket, or burlap after sowing the seeds to help maintain the soil moist.

4. Conclusion

Arizona’s varied topography delivers a variety of temperatures, which is great for the state’s agriculture sector. The majority of Arizona’s southern region is desert, where cotton and salad crops thrive. The mountainous areas of the west and north are ideal for raising cattle and sheep.

Arizona’s major agricultural exports are cattle, calves, and dairy, with cotton, lettuce, and hay ranking as the state’s top three crops. The Grand Canyon State is second in the country for cantaloupe, honeydew melons, and lemon production. Citrus is also a significant economic force.

The irrigation system in Arizona is also among the best in the world. Water is provided via irrigation projects to 15,600 farms, which contribute to an economic impact of $17 billion.

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